In the United States there are some 3,100 counties (254 in Texas alone); most are rural or suburban, but except where, as in Virginia, a city may be independent (not part of a county), every part of a state is also part of a county. Some cities, like New York (where the five boroughs are also counties) comprise more than one county. Louisiana, influenced by the French, has instead parishes, which are essentially similar to counties; Alaska has boroughs. The major functions of county government in the United States include law enforcement, the recording of deeds and other documents, and the provision and maintenance of public works such as roads and parks. Some states, though, notably Connecticut, have abolished almost all county governmental functions.
See H. S. Duncombe, County Government in America (1966); J. C. Bollens, American County Government (1969).
Counts are called earls in post-Celtic Britain and Ireland—the term is from Old Norse jarl and was introduced by the Vikings—but there is no correlation between counties and earldoms. Rather, county, from French comté, was simply used by the Normans after 1066 to replace the native English term scir ([ʃir])—Modern English shire, as the Anglo-Saxon system of Shires was unique and thus hard for the Norman invaders to comprehend so they resorted to calling them Counties. A shire was an administrative division of an Anglo-Saxon kingdom (Wessex, Mercia, East Anglia, etc.), usually named after its administrative centre: for example, Gloucester, in Gloucestershire; Worcester, in Worcestershire; etc. or originate from these forms of names (e.g. Wiltshire derived from 'Wiltonshire' with Wilton as its old county town).
Thus, whereas the word comté denoted a sovereign jurisdiction in the original French, the English county denotes a subdivision of a sovereign jurisdiction.
|Counties of Canada||English and French||county/comté||counties/comtés|
|Counties of Croatia||Croatian||županija||županije||20|
|Counties of Czech Republic||Czech language||kraj||kraje||14|
|Counties of Denmark||Danish||amt||amter||13 (at time of abolition)||established 1662, abolished 2006|
|Counties of Estonia||Estonian||maakond||maakonnad||15|
|Counties of Finland||Finnish and Swedish||lääni/län||läänit/län||6|
|Counties of Germany||German||Kreis/Landkreis||Kreise/Landkreise||323|
|Counties of Hungary||Hungarian||megye||megyék||19/22/1||for numbers: see main article|
|Counties of Ireland||Irish and English||contae||contaethe||32*|
|Counties of Japan||Japanese||郡(gun)||same as singular|
|Counties of South Korea||Korean||군(gun, 郡)||same as singular||86|
|Counties of Latvia||Latvian||rajons||rajoni||26|
|Counties of Liberia||English||15|
|Counties of Lithuania||Lithuanian||apskritis||apskritys||10|
|Counties of Moldova||Romanian||judeţ||judeţe||9||abolished 2003|
|Counties of the Netherlands||Dutch||graafschap||graafschappen||only historic|
|Counties of Norway||Norwegian||fylke||fylke/fylker||19|
|Counties of Poland||Polish||powiat||powiaty||314 (+ 65 "city counties")||abolished 1975, reintroduced 1999|
|Counties of Romania||Romanian||judeţ||judeţe||41+1|
|Counties of Russia||Russian||rayon (район) or okrug (округ)||rayony (районы) or okruga (округа)||>1000|
|Counties of Serbia and Montenegro||Serbian||okrug||okruzi||29+1/21|
|Counties of Sweden||Swedish||län||län||21|
|Counties of the United Kingdom||English|
|Counties of the United States||English||3141|
Each county is subdivided in towns or villages. Some larger towns do not form part of a county and are governed by a unitary administration instead which counts both for city administration as well as county governance.
The federal capital Vienna is considered as a state as well. The capital government of Vienna is responsible for state, county and town governance. Vienna is subdivided in boroughs which are called "Bezirk" in German as well, but have a different function than the counties in the other federal states.
see also: Districts of Austria
In Ontario and Nova Scotia, these are local government units, whereas in New Brunswick, Quebec and Prince Edward Island they are now only geographical divisions. Most counties consist of several municipalities, however there are a few that consist of a single large city. In sparsely populated northern Ontario and Quebec, these units are called districts not counties, and in densely populated areas of south-central Ontario new regional municipalities are used for local government instead of counties.
Divisions of the other provinces:
The number of counties in China proper numbers about 2,000, and has remained more or less constant since the Han Dynasty (206 BC - AD 220). The county remains one of the oldest levels of government in China and significantly predates the establishment of provinces in the Yuan Dynasty (1279 - 1368). The county government was particularly important in imperial China because this was the lowest layer at which the imperial government functioned. The head of a county during imperial times was the magistrate.
In older context, "prefecture" and "district" are alternative terms to refer to xiàn before the establishment of the Republic of China. The English nomenclature "county" was adopted following the establishment of the ROC.
See also: Political divisions of China
The counties were first introduced in 1662, replacing the 49 fiefs (len) in Denmark-Norway with the same number of counties. This number does not include the subdivisions of the Duchy of Schleswig, which was only under partial Danish control. The number of counties in Denmark (excluding Norway) had dropped to c. 20 by 1793. Following the reunification of South Jutland with Denmark in 1920, four counties replaced the Prussian Kreise. Aabenraa and Sønderborg County merged in 1932 and Skanderborg and Aarhus were separated in 1942. From 1942 to 1970, the number stayed at 22. The number was further decreased by the 1970 Danish municipal reform, leaving 14 counties plus two cities unconnected to the county structure; Copenhagen and Frederiksberg.
In 2003, Bornholm County merged with the local four municipalities, forming the Bornholm Regional Municipality. The remaining 13 counties were abolished on effective January 1, 2007 where they were replaced by five new regions. In the same reform, the number of municipalities was slashed from 270 to 98 and all municipalities now belong to a region.
See also: Counties of Denmark
The comitatus was also the historic administrative unit in the Kingdom of Hungary, which included areas of present-day neighbouring countries of Hungary. (See the list of historic counties of Hungary).
Although the Latin name (comitatus) is the equivalent of the French comté, historical Hungarian counties have never been sovereign jurisdictions. They were subdivisions of the royal administration and as such, should really be translated as shire. Even the word megye is a shortened form of the original vármegye, where the element vár means castle, thus denoting an area supervised and governed from a royal castle, much like an Anglo-Saxon shire indeed.
The provinces of Iran further subdivided into counties called shahrestan (Persian: شهرستان shahrestān), an area inside an ostan, and consists of a city centre, few bakhsh (Persian: بخش bakhsh) and many villages around them. There are usually a few cities (Persian: شهر shahr) and rural agglomerations (Persian: دهستان dehestān) in each county. Rural agglomerations are a collection of a number of villages. One of the cities of the county is appointed as the capital of the county. Each Shahrestan has a governmental office known as Farmandari which coordinates different events and governmental offices. The Farmandar, or the head of Farmandari, is the governor of the Shahrestan which is the highest governmental authority in the division.
Among provinces of Iran, Fars has the highest number of Shahrestans, with 23, while Semnan and South Khorasan have only 4 Shahrestans each; Qom uniquely has one, being coextensive with its namesake county. Iran had 324 Shahrestans in 2005.
These counties are traditionally grouped into 4 provinces - Leinster (12), Munster (6) Connacht (5) and Ulster (9). Historically, the counties of Meath, Westmeath and small parts of surrounding counties constituted the province of Mide, which was one of the "Five Fifths" of Ireland (in the Irish language the word for province, Cuige, from Cuig, five means "a fifth"); however, these have long since become the three northernmost counties of Leinster province. In the Republic each county is administered by an elected "county council", and the old provincial divisions are merely traditional names with no political significance.
The number and boundaries of administrative counties in the Republic of Ireland were reformed in the 1990s. For example County Dublin was broken into three: Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, and South Dublin - the City of Dublin had existed for centuries before. In addition "County Tipperary" is actually two administrative counties, called North Tipperary and South Tipperary while the major urban centres Cork, Galway, Limerick, and Waterford have been separated from the town and rural areas of their counties. Thus, the Republic of Ireland now has thirty-four 'county-level' authorities, although the borders of the original twenty-six counties are still officially in place
In Northern Ireland, the six county councils and the smaller town councils were abolished in 1973 and replaced by a single tier of local government. However, in the north as well as in the south, the traditional 32 counties and 4 provinces remain in common usage for many sporting, cultural and other purposes. County identity is heavily reinforced in the local culture by allegiances to county teams in Hurling and Gaelic football. Each GAA county has its own flag/colours (and often a nickname too), and county allegiances are taken quite seriously. See the counties of Ireland and the Gaelic Athletic Association.
Currently, "counties" have no political power or administrative function. The division is mainly significant in postal services.
See: Districts of Japan
During the second half of the 20th century, many counties received overflow population from nearby cities. The result was often a merger of the two into a "district" (eg Rotorua) or a change of name to "district' (eg Waimairi) or "city" (eg Manukau).
The Local Government Act 1974 began the process of bringing urban, mixed, and rural councils into the same legislative framework. Substantial reorganisations under that Act resulted in the 1989 shake-up, which covered the country in (non-overlapping) cities and districts and abolished all the counties except for the Chatham Islands County, which survived under that name for a further 6 years but then became a "Territory" under the "Chatham Islands Council".
Each county has its own assembly (fylkesting) whose representatives are elected every four years together with representatives to the municipality councils. The counties handle matters as high schools and local roads, and until recently hospitals as well. This responsibility is now transferred to the state, and there is a debate on the future of the county as an administrative entity. Some people, and parties, such as the Conservative Party of Norway, call for the abolishment of the counties once and for all, while others, like the Norwegian Labour Party merely want to merge some of them into larger regions.
Rayon, Okrug and Ulus may be translated into English as county or district.
The United Kingdom is divided into a number of metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties. There are also ceremonial counties which group small non-metropolitan counties into geographic areas broadly based on the historic counties of England. The metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties had replaced in 1974 a system of administrative counties and county boroughs which were introduced in 1889.
Most non-metropolitan counties in England are run by county councils and divided into non-metropolitan districts, each with its own council. Local authorities in the UK are usually responsible for running education, emergency services, planning, transport, social services, and a number of other functions.
In England, in the Anglo-Saxon period, Shires were established as areas used for the raising of taxes, and usually had a fortified town at their centre. These became known as the shire town or later the county town. In most cases, the shires were named after their shire town (for example Bedfordshire) however there are several exceptions to this exist, such as Cumberland, Norfolk and Suffolk. In several other cases, such as Buckinghamshire, the town which came to be accepted as the county town is different from that after which the shire is named. (See Etymological list of counties of the United Kingdom.)
The name 'county' was introduced by the Normans, and was derived from a Norman term for an area administered by a Count (lord). These Norman 'counties' were simply the Saxon shires, and kept their Saxon names. Several traditional counties, including Essex, Sussex and Kent, predate the unification of England by Alfred the Great, and originally existed as independent kingdoms.
In Northern Ireland, the six county councils, if not their counties, were abolished in 1973 and replaced by 26 local government districts. The traditional six counties remain in common everyday use for many cultural and other purposes.
The county boundaries of England have changed little over time. In the mediæval period, a number of important cities were granted the status of counties in their own right, such as London, Bristol and Coventry, and numerous small exclaves such as Islandshire were created. The next major change occurred in 1844, when many of these exclaves were re-merged with their surrounding counties (for example Coventry was re-merged with Warwickshire).
In 1965 and 1974-1975 a major re-organisation of local government created in England and Wales several new administrative counties such as Hereford and Worcester and also created several new metropolitan counties which served large urban areas as a single administrative unit. In Scotland county-sized local government was replaced by larger regions, which lasted until 1996. Modern local government in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and a large part of England is based on the concept of smaller unitary authorities (a system similar to that which the Redcliffe-Maud Report proposed for most of Britain in the 1960s).
Louisiana has entities similar to counties but calls them parishes. Alaska is divided into boroughs, which typically provide fewer local services than do most U.S. counties, as the state government furnishes many services directly. Some of Alaska's boroughs have merged geographical boundaries and administrative functions with their principal (and sometimes only) cities; these are known as unified city-boroughs and result in some of Alaska's cities ranking among the geographically largest "cities" in the world. Nevertheless, Alaska considers such entities to be boroughs, not cities. Alaska is also unique in that more than half the geographic area of the state is in the "Unorganized Borough", a legal entity in which the state also functions as the local government.
In two states and parts of a third, county government as such has been abolished, and county refers to geographic regions or districts. In Connecticut, Rhode Island and parts of Massachusetts counties exist only to designate boundaries for such state-level functions as park districts (Connecticut) or judicial offices (Connecticut and Massachusetts). In states where county government is weak or nonexistent (eg, New Hampshire), town government may provide some or all of the local government services.
Each county has a county seat (a center of county administration), usually in an incorporated municipality.
Independent cities and census districts are termed county equivalents when they function as the first jurisdiction below state level but are not part of any county.